Skip to main content

New Google tool can track in-store purchases spurred by online ad campaigns

nfc smart unlock
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The next time you pick up a discounted undershirt at American Eagle, Google might know. This at the Mountain View, California-based search giant’s annual advertiser conference, it announced a new tool that will allow it to track how much money people spend — and on which products they spend it — in brick-and-mortar stores.

It will tie into Google’s digital advertising business. When the integration launches in earnest this year, the ad clicks of Google Account users will be matched to data about their brick-and-mortar purchases. The company won’t be able to examine specific items purchased or how much a specific person spent, but it will use the collated data to track the effectiveness of online ad campaigns. And eventually, it will give retailers a detailed sales report.

Google’s using login information such as email addresses to identify the people clicking on ads. It matches that data with information from merchants and credit card issuers to determine if digital ads motivated an offline purchase.

It won’t work for all payments. Retail customers who pay with cash or use one of the 30 percent of U.S. debit and credit cards that Google can’t access won’t be tracked. And it only tracks customers who login to Google’s services. But it’s an improvement over the current system, which susses out users’ interests mainly from web searches and the content they consume across the company’s services — including Gmail, YouTube, and Android.

And it’s a veritable firehouse of purchases. Google said it has access to roughly 70 percent of U.S. credit and debit card sales through partnerships with companies that track them.

Google’s insists that it’s taken steps to protect users’ privacy. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce, told the Associated Press that “incredibly smart people” designed the new tool to be “secure and […] safe.” Data’s collected in a double-blind way, he said, meaning that data Google’s collected can’t be viewed by merchants or credit partners.

Google’s hoping the new system will convince merchants to boost advertising budgets. The company, which runs an ad network valued at $80 billion, faces increasing competition from social media juggernaut Facebook. Together, the two companies are projected make up 74 percent of digital ad growth in 2017.

Two months ago, major YouTube advertisers including Coca-Cola,, Walmart, Starbucks, and Microsoft pulled campaigns from YouTube, citing faulty filters that prevented ads from appearing next to homophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist content. In response, Google made changes to YouTube’s advertising terms of service and said it would improve its blend of user flagging, human moderation, and algorithmic detection.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In the first fiscal quarter of 2017, Google reported growth in ad sales of 19 percent to $21.4 billion.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
How to find archived emails in Gmail and return them to your inbox
A smartphone sitting on a wooden table, showing the Gmail app's inbox on its screen.

If you’re looking to clean up your Gmail inbox, but you don’t want to delete anything permanently, then choosing the archive option is your best bet. Whenever you archive an email, it is removed from your inbox folder while still remaining accessible. Here’s how to access any emails you have archived previously, as well as how to move such messages back to your regular inbox for fast access.

Read more
Samsung Spring Sale: Save on monitors, phones, TVs, and more
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in Titanium Gray with S Pen on back.

Samsung, one of the most trusted brands in the electronics industry, has rolled out monitor deals, phone deals, TV deals, and price cuts for other types of devices in the Samsung Spring Sale. While it's going to run until March 10, it's highly recommended that you finish your shopping as soon as you can because for some of the popular offers, there's a chance that their stocks run out quickly. To help you make a quick decision, we've highlighted our favorite bargains below, but feel free to look at everything that's available in the ongoing sale -- just do it fast to make sure that you don't miss out on the savings.

What to buy in the Samsung Spring Sale

Read more
Is there a Walmart Plus free trial? Get a month of free delivery
Walmart logo.

Take a moment and think about how often you shop at your local Walmart. Is it weekly? Daily? If either of those is the case, it might be time to upgrade your shopping experience. The Walmart Plus free trial is your chance to check out what the retail giant has to offer. Walmart Plus is basically Amazon Prime for Walmart. You get free shipping on most orders, early access to deals and new product drops (like PS5 restocks), the best grocery delivery, and more. If Walmart is your go-to option for the best smart home devices or the best tech products in general, you should get a membership. If you want to test out the service, you can sign up for a free trial. We have all the information you need right here.
Is there a Walmart Plus free trial?
There is a Walmart Plus free trial available, and it’s one of the best free trials we’ve seen in terms of how many great features and conveniences you’re able to access. This is really a reflection of how great the Walmart Plus service is, as the Walmart Plus free trial is essentially a 30-day experience of what it would be like to be a paid Walmart Plus subscriber. A Walmart Plus membership can help you save over $1,300 per year, so taking advantage of the 30-day free trial is a great way to get in there and see what those savings will look like. And if grocery delivery is what you're really after, an alternative you might consider is the Instacart free trial -- they have more than one program to try!

As part of a Walmart Plus free trial, you’ll get free shipping with no minimum order, so even small orders will qualify for free shipping. You’ll get fresh groceries and more with no delivery fees, and all at the same low in-store prices Walmart shoppers are used to. Walmart Plus members, and Walmart Plus free trial members, get exclusive access to special promotions and events, as well as a savings of up to 10 cents per gallon on fuel. A new addition to the perks of being a Walmart Plus member is free access to Paramount Plus, a top-notch streaming service with more than 40,000 TV episodes and movies. All of this is accessible for 30 days through a Walmart Plus free trial, and once those 30 days are up, Walmart Plus is just $8.17 per month or $98 annually.

Read more